You have an hour between classes. It’s a slightly awkward period of time and you’ve got a decision to make: You can either return home briefly, only to rush back to school, or stick around and find a way to occupy the time constructively on campus. For many students, the University Center serves as an ideal solution to this undergraduate quandary. Until quite recently, it was the case that you could seat yourself on the couches by Nicoletti’s, stretch your weary limbs and catch up on reading, complete an assignment or nap during these brief reprieves from class or work.
If you happen to fall under the impression that such is still the case today, you are sadly and grossly mistaken. Now we are all blessed with the presence of large, flat screen televisions that blast Top 40 tunes to the accompaniment of flashy music videos. And why would you want to study or sleep when you can subject yourself to such vital, unknown pleasures?
The couches of the UCen overlooking the lagoon used to exist as an unparalleled den for many functions; whether your aim was reading, writing or slumber, all were easily and comfortably achieved in a corner where few people walked through and the noise levels were perfect. Unlike the library, it wasn’t deathly still; the gentle hubbub of students and faculty drifting about served as an exemplary backdrop for those who preferred a light layer of fuzz with their silence.
As a freshman commuting from Santa Catalina on the edge of Isla Vista, the UCen became my daily haven back during the 2009-2010 school year. Depending on the day, I caught up on reading, developed papers or simply napped until the next class.
You’d be hard pressed to be as productive or relaxed in that corner today. The airy, comforting near-silence is now replaced by loud, obnoxious, overplayed songs that do little but disturb and distract students.
As a university dedicated to the pursuit of higher education and the enrichment of adolescent minds, not to mention one in an extremely tight financial bind, why are we squandering precious funds to interfere with the scholarly activities of our students as well as propagate corporate interests and the blind mass consumption of thoughtless, formulaic commodities? When students are paying absurd amounts of money to become more and more like specks in a sea of overpopulated courses, who in their right mind deemed the addition of these fancy televisions a necessary cost?
I don’t hold the answers to these questions. I do, however, hold a strong sentiment of indignation — partly that a spot I once held as a precious and vital haven for me and my fellow students has become yet another tool for the massive dumbing down of our generation through soulless commercial media, but mostly because we’re all paying in order to allow this to occur.
Admittedly, the presence of these televisions isn’t a signal of the apocalypse. Hearing yet another generic Rihanna song isn’t going to end the world (though it certainly will temper with my sanity). There is, of course, still Davidson Library and other less noisy sections of the UCen to escape to. What irks me more than the actual noise is the principle and the unfathomably irresponsible funding behind it.
For all those who matriculated to UCSB in or after the fall of 2010, I truly feel sorry for you. You’ll never know what it felt like to lay on the couches overlooking the lagoon, shielded from harsh weather, unhindered by pervasive sounds of vapid nonsense, and gaze peacefully into the shimmering waters outside. And that’s nothing short of a massive shame.
Navid Ebrahimzadeh is a third-year literature major in the College of Creative Studies.